Ralph Bacerra

Ralph Bacerra (1938-2008) designs quirky pottery with brilliant hues and interwoven geometric motifs on clay surfaces. Ralph Bacerra was a Los Angeles-based artist known as a professional educator who was also one of the first potters to resurrect the highly decorative surface by using enamels and luster glazes in previously unheard-of ways. Ralph’s eye-catching ceramics display Asian influences.

Ralph Bacerra (1938 – June 10, 2008, Garden Grove, California) was a ceramic artist and career educator who lived in Garden Grove, California. He was a resident and employee of Los Angeles, California.

Bacerra was a student at Chouinard Art Institute in Los Angeles from 1959 to 1961, where he studied under the renowned ceramist and educator Vivika Heino and under the guidance of Heino.

Bacerra enlisted in the United States Army in 1961, and upon his return in 1963, he discovered that the job of chairwoman of the ceramics department at Chouinard had been left vacant by Vivika Heino.

In this post, Bacerra worked at Chouinard from 1963 to 1971, after which the school was renamed the California Institute of the Arts and relocated to Valencia, California. Following this relocation in 1971, the ceramics section was removed from the school’s curriculum, and Bacerra proceeded to work full-time in his studio the following year.

Mr. Bacerra studied ceramics at the Chouinard Art Institute in Los Angeles, California, which eventually became part of the California Institute of the Arts. He graduated with a master of fine arts degree in 1960 from the institute. Bacerra was a student of Vivika Heino’s and later worked as a professor at the university from 1963 to 1972.

Following his graduation from Chouinard, Bacerra spent a decade working as a studio artist before obtaining a post as chairman of the ceramics department at Otis College of Art and Design in Los Angeles, California, in 1983. In 1996, he officially retired and has since spent his time traveling and creating art in his Eagle Rock, California studio.

Ralph Bacerra Career

Ralph Bacerra
Ralph Bacerra

A significant amount of technological innovation in advanced ceramics is attributed to Bacerra, which most notably resulted in the invention of oven-top ranged surfaces for the Induction Stove Corporation, which made use of electromagnetic induction.

The next year, Bacerra returned to teaching, assuming a position as chairwoman of the ceramics department at the Otis Art Institute in Los Angeles, California.

Peter Voulkos, an influential artist, was the driving force behind the establishment of this department at Otis. Bacerra served as the program’s chair from 1993 until 1997. His approach to teaching was more concerned with the development of technical proficiency and hands-on experience with materials than it was with conceptual issues. He only had one kidney, which was failing him.

Ralph Bacerra Style

Teapot, 1989, earthenware with lusters by Bacerra in the collection of the Smithsonian American Art Museum
Teapot, 1989, earthenware with lusters by Bacerra in the collection of the Smithsonian (Smithsonian Institution) American Art Museum

The vibrant use of color and contrast in Ralph Bacerra’s artwork is immediately recognized, and this is due to the meticulous and multi-staged process of overglazing that goes into each piece.

“To stare at Ralph Bacerra’s magnificent ceramic dishes is to luxuriate in visual hedonism,” writes Ken Johnson, art critic for the New York Times. Bacerra’s sense of design has been influenced by the interlocking geometries of M.C. Escher as well as the voids found in traditional Japanese prints. The work of abstract painters from the twentieth century, such as Wassily Kandinsky, has also had an impact on Bacerra’s aesthetic style.

Bacerra draws inspiration from Chinese, Japanese, and Persian pottery and cloth motifs to produce visually energizing pieces in which both form and surface are given equal consideration.

Bacerra lives and works in Los Angeles. He embellishes the surface with multi-layered glazes in a variety of rich hues, china paints, and lusters that allow him to take advantage of the vessel’s curves and cracks to their full ornamental potential.

Ralph Bacerra Style: Innovative Approach And Complex Patterns Goes Against Traditional Ideas

Bacerra’s skill to coordinate the following aspects is discussed by author Mac McCloud:

A sense of power, sinuosity, and the carefree wit of neatly interwoven stripes of varying background colors are conveyed by Bacerra’s collages through their geometric iconography. He combines a wide range of visual inspirations, including some from non-Western cultures, into a cohesive whole. These are his adaptations of ‘Oriental’ notions of space, which are represented by the planes that tilt abruptly forward towards the spectator.

Aside from that, he is well-known for his geometrically complex and technically tough forms. Chinese Tang ceramics and Japanese Imari and Kutani pieces are among the many Asian influences on his decorative aesthetic.

Ralph Bacerra designs quirky pots and jars, the surfaces of which are adorned with brilliant hues and interwoven geometric shapes, as well as other objects. Ceramics from ancient China and Islam, as well as Japanese Imari ware, provide inspiration for his artwork.

The Chouinard Art Institute, where Bacerra received his bachelor’s degree in art history, was his alma mater. He also taught at the Otis Art Institute before resigning in 1997 in order to dedicate more attention to his own work.

Persian miniatures and Chinese Tang ceramics also play a role. Bacerra’s sculptures have design-conscious surface imagery that draws comparisons to M.C. Escher’s grid techniques and use of positive and negative space, as well as to Vassily Kandinsky’s geometric sensibility and creation of movement and space, among other artists.

Ralph Bacerra Legacy

During his visits to China, Japan, and Taiwan, Bacerra’s art was greatly inspired. A diverse range of visual experiences is incorporated into his work, which includes his explorations into Imari ware, China paint techniques with layered glazes and enameled silver and gold, as well as celadon work on display at the National Museum of Taiwan. Bacerra is inspired by the mystique surrounding these artifacts and combines ancient techniques while adapting them to his own personal style. According to Ralph Bacerra:

Using traditional notions as a starting point, my pieces engage in specific cultural appropriations in terms of shape, design, and glaze selection. My art, on the other hand, is not postmodern in the sense that I am not making any social, political, conceptual, or even intellectual claims through my work. There is no meaning or metaphor in this sentence. I am more committed to the concept of pure beauty than I was previously. When it is finished, the object should have the appearance of an ornament, with great beauty.

“I’ve never really thought about my work in terms of postmodernism before. However, I believe it does meet the criterion in a number of respects. My creations are rooted in traditional notions and incorporate elements of cultural appropriation into their design, form, and glaze selections, for example. Nonetheless, my work is not post-modern in the sense that I am not making any assertions, whether they are social or political in nature, conceptual in nature, or even intellectual in nature. There is no underlying meaning or metaphor. I’m more committed to the concept of pure beauty than I was previously. Ideally, the finished work will be as an ornament, absolutely lovely in every way.”

Ralph Bacerra’s work is concerned with the aesthetics of the decorated ceramic surface on a consistent basis. Bacerra has maintained laser-like attention on embellishment throughout his career. His painstaking approach encompasses a number of sophisticated non-western techniques, fusing the influences of 20th-century American studio ceramics with traditional Asian ceramics to create works that are both beautiful and functional.

Ulysses Grant Dietz was formally recognized “Late 1970s and early 1980s saw the emergence of a whole new type of artistic quality in American studio pots. As one of the first potters to resurrect the highly ornamental surface, Ralph Bacerra experimented extensively with enamels and luster glazes, a technique that would have been unheard of in Los Angeles, or anywhere else in the Western world, a decade earlier.”

He passed away from lung cancer on Tuesday, June 10, 2008, at his home in Eagle Rock, California, which is close to Los Angeles.

Museums And Collections

Ralph Bacerra’s work can be found in a number of museum collections throughout the world, which are listed below. A number of institutions, notably the Four Seasons Hotel in San Francisco, California, and Caesar’s Palace in Las Vegas, Nevada, have commissioned Bacerra to create works for their properties.

Bacerra was tasked with creating huge, site-specific vessels for use in dining rooms in both instances, and he delivered. Bacerra has also created numerous huge murals, including a fourteen-foot mural for the Western Assets Plaza in Pasadena, which was commissioned by the city. The artwork is made up of approximately 3,000 individually crafted pieces that have been arranged to create an undulating visual appearance.

  • Edinboro State College, Edinboro, Pennsylvania Bates Gallery, Arizona State University Art Museum, Tempe
  • New York’s Cooper Hewitt Museum
  • Syracuse, New York’s Everson Museum of Art
  • Sheboygan, Wisconsin’s John Michael Kohler Arts Center
  • Champaign, Illinois’ Krannet Art Museum
  • Long Beach Museum of Art is located in the city of Long Beach, California.
  • The Los Angeles County Museum of Art is located in Los Angeles, California CA USA.
  • San Francisco Mint Museum of Craft + Design, Charlotte, North Carolina M.H. de Young Memorial Museum
  • Shigaraki Ceramic Cultural Park, Shigaraki, Japan The Museum of Contemporary Ceramic Art, Shigaraki, Japan The Museum of Contemporary Crafts, New York
  • National Museum of Modern Art, Kyoto, Japan Smithsonian American Art Museum, Washington, D.C.
  • The Newark Museum of Art is located in Newark, New Jersey.
  • Oakland, California’s Oakland Museum
  • The Racine Art Museum is located in Racine, Wisconsin.
  • Syracuse University is a public university in Syracuse, New York.
  • London’s Victoria & Albert Museum
  • Washington, D.C.’s White House
  • Wichita Art Museum is located in Wichita, Kansas
  • American Museum
  • Garth Clark Gallery
  • Ben Maltz Gallery
  • Frank Lloyd Gallery

Ceramicists Who Shaped the Future of Art

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